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Former Bears return to Halas Hall

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The Bears welcomed more than 20 of their former players to Halas Hall Tuesday to watch minicamp practice and to enjoy an alumni cookout.

"Any interaction we can get as alumni, it's always good," said James Thornton, a Bears tight end from 1988-91. "You see guys you normally don't see, sometimes guys you haven't seen in years. So it's always good to catch up."

Although the former players aren't as young, fast or strong as they used to be, they remain avid fans of the sport they once played at the highest level.

"We still love football," said Thornton, a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch. "We can't play anymore, but we still love it and still want to be a part of it. It's great that the Bears have things like this and everybody can get together and reminisce."

Former Bears receiver Marcus Robinson was also happy to be back at Halas Hall.

"I think it's awesome," said Robinson, who played for the Bears from 1998-2002. "The Bears are doing a good job with their alumni, inviting us back to see what's going on."

"It's big," added Johnny Knox, a Bears receiver from 2009-12. "It's good to come out here and catch up with the guys, guys that you haven't seen in a while, guys that you played with, guys who played before you. It's good that the Bears host something like this and just want to continue that family culture."

Knox, whose career ended due to a gruesome back injury, reports that he's feeling good. "I'm standing up walking and moving around on my own," he said. "I tell people all the time I can still golf, so I must be doing well."

Nathan Vasher, a Bears cornerback from 2004-09, enjoyed returning to his old stomping grounds to watch practice and chat with other former players.

"It's a blessing to get a chance to come back," Vasher said. "There are so many great guys that paved the way for this great organization."

Vasher and Knox will both serve as assistant coaches at Carmel High School, which is located not too far from Halas Hall in Mundelein. The head coach is Blake Annen, who played in five games as a tight end with the Bears in 2014.

"It's a great situation," Vasher said. "It's a good opportunity to be around guys that know football, guys that care about mentoring young kids, developing young men and just getting a chance to be out there with a football program. It's the greatest game in the world to me and all of us have something different to add when it comes to helping young people have success."

Other former Bears who attended Tuesday's event included Anthony Adams, Bob Avellini, Kurt Becker, Jason Davis, Rashied Davis, Steve Edwards, Jay Hilgenberg, Israel Idonije, Jason McKie, Ahmad Merritt, Anthony Morgan, Ryan Mundy, Mickey Pruitt and Tom Thayer.

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